The Dynamic Between Parents And Teens Has Changed – But Has It Gone Too Far?

Parents are often told to enjoy every moment of their child’s youth because it goes by all-too fast.

If you have older kids and teens, you understand this fact to be true – and it’s hard to think of them growing up and leaving home some day.

For those of us who have seen our kids grow up far too quickly, there is now some interesting news in the form of a cultural shift.

Just a few decades ago, it was common for teens to jump at getting their driver’s license at 16, with more than half doing so in the 1980s.  

Now, barely a quarter of kids who are legally able to get a license do so right away.

During the same time period, it was far more uncommon for teens to continue living at home once they turned 18.  

But both college tuition and apartments were far more available and affordable for young people thirty years ago.  Kids often have fewer options for early independence than previously.

And those are not the only rights of passage that today’s teens are putting off.  Research into these trends have led to the phrase “emerging adulthood” being coined.

Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett explained to the Washington Post that adolescents and young adults aged 18 to 25 are maturing socially and emotionally at a slower pace.

They are staying in school longer while taking advantage of the ability to live at home to cut down on expenses – something that many parents welcome.

Young adults in their early twenties are waiting longer to marry and have children, as well.

And even more welcome news for parents – teens and young adults are now less likely to go through the “rebellious” years of parties, drug and alcohol use, or even early sexual activity.

In fact, teens are much more content now to actually spend time with their parents and family.  

While we enjoy this new trend in parent/teen closeness and the fact that teens are less likely to participate in risky activities that we may have taken part in, it can backfire.

Parents are sometimes helping their teens and young adult kids too much, and it’s making them less eager to jump into adulthood.

Researchers point to the fact that teens and young adults do much of their socializing online through social media, and many are getting a “heads-up” from peers about just how hard it is to work and pay bills like rent.

In addition to the “virtual freedom” teens now have, experts also point to a change in the parent/child dynamic over the last twenty years.

It is far more difficult for teens to afford to buy a car, pay for gas and insurance, and especially put themselves through college.

Parents always want their children to succeed, and many are finding that they must help financially into early adulthood in order to give their kids the opportunities they had.

But this is backfiring as teens are becoming dependent on this help – in many cases waiting longer to begin working.  

With education and housing costs soaring, parents are taking on more responsibilities in order to give their children the best start in life.  

But they are also doing too much for their kids – leading to entitlement and a decrease in work ethic compared to generations past.

Instead of making teens get after-school jobs, parents are paying for more and more extracurricular activities like sports to give them a leg-up in the college application process.  

In some cases, we are unintentionally becoming a “crutch” for our kids by enabling them to put off “adulting” because we want to save them from the daily grind of work, stress, and overwhelming responsibilities.

We see scary things in the news, and we become frightened about sending them out into the world.  

But our fears are holding our kids back from growing up.  Today’s teens and young adults are generally less independent and self-confident than decades ago.

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It’s a fine line for many parents.  We want to give our kids a boost, but we don’t want to enable them or create entitled adults who will never be able to survive on their own.

Psychologists suggest that parents find a happy medium.  

If your teen uses your car, make them fill up the gas tank and pay their own insurance.  

If they continue to live at home past age 18, make them accountable by insisting they work and help with more household chores and some small bills.

If they want to attend college, they should be responsible for working while in high school, saving money, and applying for financial aid and scholarships to help offset costs.

There is nothing wrong with having a close relationship with our adolescent and young adult children.

But we also owe it to them to teach them how to become successful adults – playing only a supporting role in their personal life journey.

What do you think about the changing dynamic between parents and teens?  Are we enabling our kids and holding them back or giving them a much-needed boost in an uncertain world?  Leave us your thoughts.